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Descriptions of the legal system for assessment - Ireland

The Education Act 1998

It gave a legislative framework to DES policies. Its main provisions in relation to special education have been summarised in the national report prepared for the European Agency in autumn 2007, which also describes the main legislative provisions affecting special education in: 

  • Equal Status Act 2000
  • Education (Welfare) Act 2002
  • Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004
  • Disability Act 2005 

This report will therefore only emphasise the provisions in these acts which have implications for the practice of assessment with some indication of progress that has been made on implementation. 

The Children Act 2001

This act implies the requirement for assessment reports on young offenders or on children accused of an offence (Section 96 (2) (a)).  Section 99(5) empowers the Courts to remand children pending the production of reports and to “at any time, summon as a witness any person whose evidence in its opinion would assist it in dealing with the case.” Similarly, there is provision that a family welfare conference may be attended by any other person who “would make a positive contribution to the conference because of the person’s knowledge of the child or the child’s family or because of his or her particular expertise. (Section 9(f)).

Children Detention schools usually avail of the services of HSE personnel to carry out assessments. Young people on remand who need psychological or psychiatric assessment are normally referred to the national specialist assessment unit in Dublin. 

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004

It is intended that the EPSEN Act, 2004, will to be fully in operation by 2010. This act provides, among other things, for:

  • the establishment of a National Council for Special Education (NCSE), a statutory agency to take on executive responsibility for special education, and to advise the DES on policy. (Final decisions on policy will remain with the Minister and the Department.)
  • a staged approach to intervention, beginning with the preparation and implementation by school principals of educational plans for children who are not benefiting from the educational programme generally provided by the school.
  • Assessment under the act for children who do not benefit from the educational plans prepared and implemented by the principal.  Such assessments can be initiated by the principal, the NCSE or at the behest of the Health Services Executive (HSE).
  • a statement of findings which sets out the nature and extent of the pupil’s special educational needs
  • an Individual Education Plan (to be reviewed once a year) setting out:
    • the nature and degree of the child’s abilities, skills and talents
    • the nature and degree of the child’s special educational needs and how those needs affect his or her educational development
    • the present level of educational performance of the child
    • the special educational needs of the child
    • the special education and related support services to be provided to the child to enable the child to benefit from education and to participate in the life of the school
    • where appropriate, the special education and related services to be provided to the child to enable the child to effectively make the transition from pre-school education to primary school education
    • where appropriate, the  special education and related support services to be provided to the child to enable the child to effectively make the transition from primary school education to post primary school education and
    • the goals which the child is to achieve over a period not exceeding 12 months
  • rights for parents:
    • to request early intervention by the principal as outlined above
    • to request of the NCSE or HSE to cause an assessment of their child to be carried out
    • to request the NCSE to designate a school that their child with special educational needs is to attend
    • a review of their child’s educational plan if they are of the view that the goals are not being achieved and a review has not taken place within the previous six months
    • to be consulted by the principal in relation to the arrangement of an assessment and the preparation of the IEP
    • to participate in the assessment  and to be involved in the preparation of an IEP
    • to be informed of the findings of the assessment, to a copy of the IEP and a report of the outcome of a review of the IEP
    • to appeal on a number of grounds

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) 

The NCSE was established on 1 October 2005 with the initial task of preparing a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act. It has now submitted this for consideration by the DES in the light of resource, and other practical implications for the implementation of the Act by 2010. 

As also provided for in the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has established a corps of approximately 80 Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), who are located in various regional centres and who, working within the parameters of Departmental circulars, visit schools and help children, parents and teachers to understand their entitlements, to gain access to appropriate resources, including assessments, and to advise on the development of educational plans. 

The NCSE has also produced and issued to schools Guidelines for the Individual Education Plan Process (www.ncse.ie) . 

The DES is currently planning for the implementation of the EPSEN act. A priority action will be the provision of continuous professional development for all teachers on assessment and Individual Education Plans.

The Disability Act 2005

It provides, among other things, for the assessment of children and persons who appear to have a disability, other than those for whom an assessment under the terms of the EPSEN Act has already been initiated. The Health Services Executive (HSE) has responsibility for the provision of assessments under the Disability Act, and the Act defines who may apply for assessments, the time scale for response to such applications and the role of the Assessment Officers who have been appointed under the terms of the act (www.dohc.ie). 

In practice, the Department of Education and Science normally takes responsibility for special educational provision, including assessments, for children between the ages of 5 and 18 

It should be noted that, under the terms of both Acts, assessments must be carried out in an independent manner, regardless of the availability of resources. However, although there is now a legal right to assessment, there is not an automatic right to all of the resources that might be recommended in an assessment report.

Standards for the Assessment of Need

In October 2006, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science set up a cross-sectoral committee with representatives from both Departments as well as the HSE and the NCSE, to oversee and coordinate the implementation of both the Disability Act and the EPSEN Act. Assessment Officers have been appointed and a sub-group of the cross-sectoral committee has produced Standards for the Assessment of Need. This report provides standards and evaluation criteria under each of the following headings:

  • Person Centred Approach
  • Information
  • Access to Assessment of Need
  • Involving appropriate education and health staff in the Assessment of Need process
  • Co-ordinated Assessment of Need
  • Monitoring and Review 

These standards and criteria have been formally adopted by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) (www.hiqa.ie) .

  

Appendix 1 - Sources for references in this report

  • Children Acts Advisory Board (www.caab.ie)
  • Department of Education and Science (www.education.ie) for information on:
  • DES circulars in relation to special needs
  • DES circulars in relation to School Development Planning
  • Learning Support Guidelines (2000)
  • Guidelines on the assessment of education in places other than recognised schools (2003)
  • Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs - Post Primary Guidelines, DES Inspectorate, (2007)
  • Special Educational Needs - A Continuum of Support (Guidelines for Teachers), NEPS, DES (2007)
  • Special Educational Needs - A Continuum of Support (Resource Pack for Teachers), NEPS, DES (2007)
  • National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS):
  • o Working together to make a difference for children - Information for parents Information note on Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments
  • Special Education Support Service (www.sess.ie)  - all publications related to the education of pupils with special educational needs are accessible from this site
  • Second Level Support Service (www.slss.ie) for information and support in relation to second level certificate programmes
  • Health Information and Quality Authority (www.hiqa.ie)
  • Legislation (www.oireachtas.ie)
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (www.ncca.ie)
  • Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities (2007)
  • A Draft Curriculum Framework for Children Detention Schools, High Support Units and Special Care Units (2007)
  • Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, Guidelines for Schools (2007)
  • Exceptionally Able Students, Draft Guidelines for Teachers (2007)
  • Standardised Testing: Leaflet for parents
  • National Council for Special Education (www.ncse.ie)
  • Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (2006)
  • Implementation Report 2006
  • Circulars relating to the allocation of resources to schools to cater for pupils with special educational needs
  • National Disability Authority (www.nda.ie)
  • EPSEN Act 2004 (2005)
  • International Experience in the Provision of Individual Education Plans for Children with Disabilities (2005)
  • NDA Submission to National Council for Special Education Implementation Plan (2006)
  • National Educational Welfare Board (www.newb.ie):
  • Don’t Let Your Child Miss Out – Parents’ Leaflet (in 18 languages)
  • State Examinations Commission (www.examinations.ie
  • Information regarding the scheme for provision of Reasonable Accommodations in State Examinations (RACE)
  • Information on the work of the Advisory Committee established to review the RACE scheme
  • DES – Department of Education and Science
  • EPSEN Act – Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act
  • HIQA – Health Information and Quality Authority
  • HSE – Health Services Executive
  • IEP – Individual Educational Plan
  • NCSE – National Council for Special Education
  • SENO – Special Educational Needs Organisers
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